Road to Freedom

February 01, 2010

To help the slaves freed by the 13th Amendment, Congress established the Freedmen's Bureau in 1865 to help former slaves resettle into life. Despite its accomplishments, the Freedmen's Bureau did not solve the serious economic problems of black Americans. Most continued to live in poverty. They also suffered from racist threats and laws limiting their freedom and civil rights.

In 1865 and 1866, many Southern state governments passed laws that became known as the black codes. Some of these codes did not allow black people to own land. Others established a nightly curfew and some allowed states to jail black individuals for not having a job. The black codes shocked a powerful group of northern congressmen called the Radical Republicans. They worked hard to pass the 14th Amendment, which gave citizenship to black Americans. It also guaranteed that all federal and state laws would apply equally to everyone, regardless of color.


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